Sharing The Experience: Junior Duck Hunt
By Molly Barber
Photos By Jeff Barber & Ronnie Theobald
I come from a family of people who truly love the outdoors. Hunting and fishing were multigenerational activities along with most other outdoor recreation. Hunting isn’t something I got into but growing up with a grandfather, father, uncle, and brother who loved it, I participated in my own way. I remember riding on quads or in trucks looking for deer, walking countless miles with them while they chucker hunted, and camping with them before opening days. I loved using and calibrating rangefinders, I customized one that I thought I might improve, sure enough, it’s become one of our most highly recommended rangefinders as hunters. I loved the Jr. Duck Hunt for many different reasons than they did. I’m sure my brother enjoyed being the only hunter in the blind who was allowed to shoot. I’m sure my dad liked watching my brother enjoy a sport he himself loved. And I know my grandpa just loved being out in nature with his family. But I loved going out the night before and sitting around a campfire watching their excitement grow. I loved hearing them tell stories from their childhoods and listening to classic rock as I fell asleep counting the shooting starts.
I had a lot of friends who participated in the Jr. Duck Hunt and like myself, it holds a special place in their hearts. Rod Theobald took his sons to participate in the Jr. Duct Hunt every year until they were too old. And his son Ronnie has continued the tradition, taking kids out over the years and looks forward to the day he can take his nephews out for the experience.
“It’s a fantastic way to get kids hooked on hunting and they almost always have great success during the hunts.” Ronnie Theobald explained.
The hunt has been set up around the kids and in the fall because the birds are more abundant up here at that time. The Jr. Duck Hunt begins before the regular duck season in this area. Down in the valley, where the ducks will end up by the new year, they have the Jr. Duct Hunt after the regular season ends.
There’s usually a week or two gap between the Jr. Duck Hunt and the regular season to allow the ducks to set up again. But up here allowing the kids to have the first opportunity to get some ducks is a pretty special experience for a young hunter. Michael Warren remembers his first Jr. Duck Hunt as not so much of a shooting day but just a memorable experience with good friends, “I remember going out for my first junior duck hunt with Clive Bolinger and Dustin Russell. It was a blue bird day with absolutely no ducks flying anywhere near us. As far as harvesting birds it was a terrible day, but as far as the hunting memories go, that’s what started my passion for hunting waterfowl.”
This year the Jr. Duck Hunt is September 24 & 25. Online the qualifications to participate in the Jr. Duct Hunt state that you must be 17 years old or younger and must be accompanied by a non-hunter 18 years or older. There are other regulations that you should read up on before going out, these include hunting limits, recon regulations, license specifications and other hunting regulations. For this information you can go to wildlife.ca.gov.
So whether you are someone who is interested in participating in the Jr. Duck Hunt or maybe someone who wants to take out a young hunter, I would take advantage of this opportunity and the wonderful area we live in up here. “Very little pressure on the birds allows for the kids to have lots of chances. You get to teach them how to be responsible hunters and great life skills as well.” Theobald said. “Life skills, obeying the law, being cautious about firearms and weapons in general. How to cook, clean and prepare animals. Things like that.”
I love writing stories like this. If nothing else than to see the excitement people have when talking about their passions. And that’s really what you’d call something like this. Because anyone can go out on a bluebird day or when the ducks are flying but then there are the people who brave the cold and elements to sit in a blind all day hoping to get a shot. Those are the people who take the time to share this sport with a younger generation when they know they won’t be firing a gun. To set the example and show them the proper way to do things. So thank you to all the hunters who go out of their way to take a kid out for a day to share this experience.